PREVIEW: Gulls at CondorsJan 2, 2019
The Gulls open the 2019 calendar year looking to begin where they left off at the conclusion of 2018. Riding three straight wins and a season-long eight-game standings point streak (6-0-0-2), San Diego (14-11-1-3) visits the Bakersfield Condors at Rabobank Arena (6:30 p.m., Mighty 1090) in the third meeting between the two clubs over the last six days. The Gulls also enter tonight with four road games with a point (2-0-0-2).
San Diego has won four of five contests in the 10-game season series, earning points in all five games (4-0-0-1). The Gulls won the most recent matchup four nights ago, a 3-2 win at Rabobank Arena where Trevor Murphy tied the game late in regulation and Troy Terry scored the overtime winner to seal the victory. On Dec. 27, the Gulls came back in the third period with three goals to stun the Condors in 4-3 win. Bakersfield’s only win to date came in a 4-3 shootout win on Dec. 14 at Rabobank Arena. All-time, the Gulls are 18-13-1-1 against the Condors, including 8-6-1-1 on the road.
The Gulls currently sit at fifth place in the Pacific Division, two points shy of Colorado and Bakersfield. A win could propel the Gulls into a playoff position for the first time this season, but the Gulls do trail Bakersfield by two points and two regulation and overtime wins, but do have two games in hand on the Eagles.
Despite the two losses to the Gulls recently, the Condors (16-11-1-1) downed the Ontario Reign, 3-1, on Monday to get back in the win column. Just prior to the game, Bakersfield lost their leading scorer Joe Gambardella to his first recall to the Edmonton Oilers after the second-year forward led the team in scoring (12-9=21) and goals.
The Gulls completed the 2018 calendar year with a 35-26-3-4 record (.566%), including a 23-16-2-2 record on home ice (.581%). The Gulls completed the month of December with a 6-4-0-2 record, and were tied in the third period in each of the four defeats, showing just how close to seven to 10 wins this team could have been if a few bounces went their way.
January is a month where the club has had success in the past, posting a 19-11-1-1 record all-time in the month, but looking ahead it will provide a rather difficult start to the new year. The 11-game month will pit eight road games and only three home games, the fewest contests on home ice in a single month all season. What helps is the strong foundation head coach Dallas Eakins has built the past several weeks in turning around a rough start beset with organization injuries that have tested the depth of both clubs.
Despite that start, the team enters 2019 with a 14-11-1-3 record (32 points) through 29 games, the second-best start in club history and only one point shy of the 16-12-0-1 record (33 points) through 29 contests in the club’s inaugural 2015-16 season. San Diego has also scored the most goals (103) in the Pacific Division to date, the highest goal total through 29 games in club history (91 in 2017-18).
“We’re real proud of where we’re at today. We still have a long way to go but I’m really encouraged by our team’s mindset lately,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “I’m trying to do my best to get some chemistry here but it’s been tough with the amount of injuries that we’ve been coming across.”
Those injuries have hit hard lately as Kalle Kossila (upper body), Corey Tropp (upper body), Deven Sideroff (upper body) each have been sidelined of late. In turn, the Gulls signed forward Johno May to a professional tryout yesterday, with the 6-5, 205-pound first year professional joining the Gulls after scoring 17 goals and adding 13 assists in 35 games with Greenville of the ECHL. His 17 goals ranked tied for second in the league, while he was second in scoring and assists on the Swamp Rabbits.
During any rough stretch where depth is tested, defensive play and goaltending are relied on more heavily, especially with a few key forwards out injured.
Goaltender Kevin Boyle has been a force in net, winning five straight starts while posting a 2.17 goals-against average and .920 save percentage during the second-longest win streak of his career. It’s that type of confidence that the third-year goalie showed in a number of win streaks last season that Boyle (10-5-0) is expected to get the nod in net again tonight.
“Confidence, and it’s always an amazing thing. I think Kevin has been real diligent with the process of his craft. He’s continued to work hard,” said Eakins of Boyle. “He didn’t get too far down on himself when our team wasn’t playing well and he’s got his feet under him. He looks big and square, and very confident in that net. We want him to continue with that success.”
When asked following yesterday’s practice what has changed for him after a rough start, his confidence came down to forging a stronger mentality and working with goaltending coach J.F. Labbe on his movement in the crease.
“I think I’ve toned down a little movements and have gotten real calm and composed in the net,” said Boyle”. I think I’ve toned it down a little bit and gotten on a little bit of a streak. With that comes a little confidence and we just have to keep it going.”
The forward who have remained in the lineup have put the Gulls on their back as the team has scored 103 goals this season, tops in the Pacific Division. It also marks the most goals through the first 29 games in club history, same with the 40 road goals through the first 12 road contests.
Troy Terry enters tonight riding a nine-game point streak (4-8=12), which is the second point streak of nine games or more this season for the rookie forward. Terry is the only player in the AHL to do so after he previously set a club record with an 11-game point streak from Oct. 19-Nov. 23 (7-9=16), scoring a point in each of his first 11 games to begin his AHL career.
What’s the most astonishing number of all for the fifth round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2015 is the consistency. Terry has collected points in 22 of his 26 games this season. He has only gone scoreless on four occasions his entire time with the Gulls.
Also entering tonight is Max Jones who has goals in back-to-back games (2G/2A) in addition to a career three-point night on Dec. 30 at San Jose. Sam Carrick may be the hottest of late though, scoring his 17th goal at San Jose to set a new single-season career high and now sitting tied second among AHL leaders in goals. He has also earned points in nine of his last 10 games (8G/5A) in addition to 18 points (11G/7A) his last 13 games. Lastly, and perhaps flying under the radar, is Southern California native Chase De Leo who currently has points in six straight games, a new career high, as he has scored seven points during that span (2G/5A).
“The other thing that we’ve done, this is a credit to our players, we’ve really tightened the screws up with our level of hardness and grittiness and it’s something that this thing has had to play with to have success,” added Eakins. “They’ve really embraced that and it’s we’re not going to let our foot off the pedal. We talk about mindset on a daily basis and it’s amazing what you can achieve when you have your mind right.”
“Every day you come to the rink you want to come better and improve.”